Trial of Faith

“Grace tried is better than grace, and more than grace; it is glory in its infancy.” —Samuel Rutherford

Excerpt from Shiny Shoes on Dusty Paths Vol. 1, Chapter 16: Belgian Carpet Slippers on Hardwood Floors

“As the days stretched out our food barrel shrank lower and lower and sometimes scraped empty. Finally the day came when all that was left in th cupboard were some prunes—which we ate for breakfast. We consoled ourselves with the fact that we’d been invited to a birthday dinner that evening…

“Our hosts met us graciously at the door and offered carpet slippers, then proceeded to serve a seven-course dinner that lasted for hours…

“Walking home after this delicious dining experience, we felt like it had all been a fantasy dream, and as we climbed the stairs to our little apartment we were confronted with the reality of our empty cupboards. Where would our next meal come from?

“At the top of the stairs we spotted a white envelope on the small table where our landlady sometimes deposited our mail. In seconds I had my penknife open and the contents of the letter in my hands. In disbelief we gazed at a substantial check—enough for many meals.

“But our greatest test came… when a letter arrived from Africa… Mary read, ‘Since it’s taking you so long to come to Congo, maybe God hasn’t sent you after all!’

“Mary dropped the letter on the table, laid her head on top of it, and wept.

“After pouring our hearts out to God, we contacted Pastor and Mrs. Meyers, who shared our anguish and perplexity. Together we decided to wait and trust, and in the meantime to occupy our minds by studying French.  ‘You never know,’ he said, ‘God might still have His finger on the latch of that door to Congo.’

“At that time the study of the French language was not a requirement for service in Congo. It had not yet become the official language. However, we knew it was (then) spoken by the Belgians governing the Congo, so it just might come in handy.

“We couldn’t afford to pay for language study, but a missionary serving with a Jewish mission graciously tutored us as his time permitted…

“Meanwhile, back in our hometown of Dallas, Oregon, Evangelist Peach had dropped in for another series of meetings. He asked about us and was informed that we were still in Belgium. No one seemed to know why… But someone suggested he ask my parents…

“This was a time in the history of missions when missionaries operated strictly on faith. Salaries and promised support were unknown, as were prayer letter or other fund-raising strategies. Needs were mentioned only in prayer—or when someone asked of the intimate family and friends.

“Evangelist Peach asked my parents, ‘Why are Abe and Mary still in Belgium?’

“‘Because they don’t have enough money for a ticked to Africa,’ my Dad repled.

“”Well then, it’s time to tell the church,’ he said emphatically. ‘I’ll take care of that myself.’

“The very next meeting he challenged the congregation to send us on to Africa, and a few weeks later we received a precious envelope containing a check sufficient for a boat ticket to Africa. This time Mary and I cried and laughed with joy.”

Joanne’s comment:

In the process of faith the real test is the time between a total commitment and the time  when God brings about the fulfillment. It’s especially trying when God—for His own reasons—says “wait.” Tension increases when others question, ridicule, criticize or accuse us of being presumptuous to the point where we ourselves are shaken. That’s when we begin to question: Did God really speak? Were we presumptuous? Presumption is overstepping God’s leading, or attempting to force one’s desire upon God, or the result of an arrogant heart attitude.

For Abe there had been that clear and definite sense of divine appointment as described in chapter 10 of Shiny Shoes when he’d gone to the roof of Biola’s old campus to seek God’s guidance, and had been given a firm assurance of God’s hand upon him.

When facing such an emotional dilemma, it’s often helpful to seek out a seasoned servant of God who is willing to listen objectively. In their case they met with the pastor of the Evangelische Kerk who shared their concern and prayed with them. It was then that they all came to the conclusion that God’s answer was: “Wait and trust.”

Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In other words faith is not faith if one already knows the outcome. Faith is casting oneself totally and unconditionally upon God.

Abe himself commented on the incident in the following chapter, Sailing Shoes Facing New Horizons:

“With the passing of time one can look back at the pattern of one’s footprints on the trail of life and trace a design not visible at the time those footprints were made. Later we’d marvel at God’s wisdom in delaying us in Belgium long enough to learn some basic French and to establish a bond with the Belgian people. These two elements were essential in preparing us for ministry that would surpass our wildest dreams.

The Reward of Faith

“Now, with the funds in hand, we booked passage for July 11, 1933. We were thrilled when we held in our hands the long-awaited tickets that would take us to Africa…

“The church gave Elizabeth Lemière and us a touching send-off after the morning service. Emotion-packed speeches were given, followed by prayers of dedication and intercession mixed with songs of praise…

“then gathered outside for a memorable picture taken by a professional photographer…

“The next morning I rented a handcart. After loading all our belongs, the three of us set off across the cobblestones to the boat.

A good group of friends came to the Antwerp harbor to see us off. When the boat pulled out at 2 P.M. the hankerchiefs waving in tshe wind were as the sweet breath of the Spirit filling our sails and blowing us out to sea.”

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